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Putin Says He Hopes Troops Won’t Be Necessary in Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he “hopes” he won’t have to use his “right” to deploy the military in eastern Ukraine, while pointing out that the region historically belongs to Russia.

Putin said during an annual televised call-in show that he still believes a diplomatic solution can be achieved to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, adding that it’s up to political groups inside the country rather than Russia and the U.S. to find a compromise. The main issue is guaranteeing the rights and interests of Russians and Russian-speaking people, he said.

“Let me remind everyone, this is New Russia, using the terminology of Czarist Russia,” Putin said. “Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolayev, Odessa weren’t part of Ukraine in Czarist times. These are the territories that were passed to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. God knows, why they did that.”

Ukrainian forces killed three pro-Russian militants overnight after an attack on a national guard base in the country’s east, where separatists have seized several government buildings. The top diplomats from the U.S., the European Union, Ukraine and Russia are meeting in Geneva today to discuss the crisis.

Russia won’t recognize Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election if the unrest continues, as some candidates are being harassed and beaten, Putin said. He reiterated that the government in Moscow doesn’t consider the current Ukrainian leadership legitimate.

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